Burmese authorities have returned some 5,000 acres (20 sq.km) of farmland to residents of four villages in the district of Tada-U in Mandalay Division.
The lands were part of a larger parcel of property that had originally been seized and confiscated by the military government in the early 1990s to make way for construction of Mandalay International Airport. That airport opened in 2000, but some 9,000 acres of land remains unused.
On 28 June, an official ceremony was held to mark the return of the land. Mandalay Division Chief Minister Ye Myint presided over the event, attended by around 500 residents of villages in the area.
However, farmers from the four villages say the land returned is a little over half of the plot they originally owned and cultivated, and they insist the rest is handed back too.
They say some 4,000 acres of unused land in Tada-U remains in government hands.
Burma’s presidential-appointed Land Grab Investigation Commission has called on all fallow or undeveloped lands which were seized by the military to be returned this year or for adequate compensation to be offered to the original owners.
That parliamentary commission has outlined a precise timeframe for the land grab cases to be settled. That deadline is September.
Khin Thandar, a local member for the National League for Democracy, questioned the government’s decision to retain the large portion of confiscated land.
“We would like to know if the government has a plan to return the remainder of the land in September,” she said. “We want to know if there is a specific order on this.”
However Chief Minister Ye Myint claimed that the Tada-U farmers were not entitled to the return of all their previously held property.
“A total of 9,055 acres of land was disputed and the information was submitted to the government,” he said.
“They made the decision. A road divides the land. The plots to the west of the road are not to be returned,” he said.
The Tada-U villagers say they are determined to press home their claim for the return of the remaining land. At this stage, Khin Thandar says, they still have nothing to be grateful for.